Old boy targets return - 31/03/2005
Nolberto Solano has not given up on a starting place against former club Newcastle on Saturday after revealing he will fight fatigue and risk injury for a prized return to St James's Park.
The Peruvian, on the losing side as Brazil secured a hard-fought 1-0 victory in Sunday's World Cup qualifier, had indicated he would not be in a position to play against United on Tyneside for the first time since last January's controversial move to Aston Villa.
But Solano, in action for the second time in five days in the early hours of tomorrow morning, has confirmed he is flying into Newcastle on Friday evening with a view to lining up against his former colleagues the following afternoon.
"It will be a tough journey and of course fatigue will be a factor," explained the former Magpies' favourite. "But I think the manager wants me to play as we do not have too many options on the right side.
"I will leave it until the last minute because it's a match that means so much to me and of course I want to play. I never had the opportunity to say a proper farewell to the United fans - they were always good to me when I was at Newcastle and they have been great to me since my move. It's a big weekend for me and I can't rule myself out until I have to."
Solano has comfortably established himself as Villa's player of the season and it is no surprise Graeme Souness made an audacious move for the South American playmaker in January. As the Midlanders' eight-goal top scorer and the club's set-piece specialist, it is little wonder O'Leary wants his £1.5m signing to feature against a Newcastle side growing in strength at home and abroad.
And the former Leeds boss faces an anxious wait for news from Lima as Solano and Villa full back Ulises De La Cruz contest a World Cup fixture both sides need to win to keep alive their hopes of qualification for next year's finals tournament in Germany.
Peru missed a golden opportunity to share the spoils with Brazil last weekend with a strike from Milan's Kaka - the World Cup holders' first competitive goal for four-and-a-half hours - separating the sides.
But Solano is confident he and his colleagues will make amends during tomorrow's clash in Lima.
"It hurts to lose in the way we did against Brazil," added the experienced winger. "In truth we could have come out of that match with at least a point. Luckily the other results went in our favour and nobody has pulled clear because there were many draws.
"We're already thinking about Ecuador and the chance to secure three points at home.
"Brazil is one of the best teams in the world, if not the best, and to lose narrowly against them is no disgrace. But we demonstrated much discipline and a lot of desire but the fact that we were so close and came away with nothing is frustrating. We can't feel sorry for ourselves and we're looking forward to playing in front of our own fans this week."
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